Based on observations made at ISPs around the world, Cisco forecasts that by 2017, annual global Internet traffic will rise to 1.4 zettabytes (that’s 1021 bytes), compared to “just” 528 exabytes (1018 bytes) in 2012. At this time 80 to 90 percent of all consumer Internet traffic will be some form of video, but other sources contributing to the rise include machine-to-machine communication and the proliferation of mobile devices.
Sales of smartphones and other mobile devices will help drive growth in the Middle East and Africa. In developed countries, where the smartphone market is becoming saturated, machine-to-machine communications will be a significant driver.
A smaller share of traffic will flow over the public Internet’s long-haul links, as content delivery networks such as Akamai will bring popular media content directly to metropolitan-area networks.
Video will dominate consumer Internet traffic in 2017. In fact, these figures underplay the amount of video, since much of file-sharing traffic (once the scourge of overwhelmed ISPs) consists of movies and TV shows.
This article originally appeared in print as “The Age of the Zettabyte.”